Pier to Cove Swim returns to La Jolla this month after two-year pandemic pause

Swimmers take to the water for the Pier to Cove Swim in 2013. This year's version will be held Sunday, June 26.
(Paula Selby)

The La Jolla Cove Swim Club’s annual Pier to Cove Swim returns after a two-year hiatus Sunday, June 26, with about 200 swimmers expected to take to the waves.

The 1½-mile open-water swim will start at 9 a.m. at Scripps Pier at La Jolla Shores, with swimmers finishing at The Cove.

Swim Club member and event organizer Doug Burleigh said “it’s a good distance for a lot of people.” Faster swimmers will complete the course in about 30 minutes; most others will take 40 to 60 minutes, he said.

“We warn people that this should not be your first open-water swim,” Burleigh said.

San Diego lifeguards will be on hand to provide safety assistance and will remove any swimmers who remain in the water after 90 minutes and will take them to The Cove.

Burleigh said swimmers younger than 16 may participate but that he will assess their capability for such a swim first.

One year, a 10-year-old girl asked to take part and proved her mettle during a practice swim with Burleigh. She completed the Pier to Cove Swim and went on to earn a swimming scholarship to college.

Those who complete this year’s swim will receive event-branded baseball caps, with trophies going to the first-place male and female swimmers overall and medals to the first-place male and female finishers in each age group.

After the event, Duke’s La Jolla will provide a buffet brunch for the participants, as it has done for years.

Participants in the Pier to Cove Swim will take on a 1½-mile route from Scripps Pier to La Jolla Cove.
Participants in the Pier to Cove Swim will take on a 1½-mile route from Scripps Pier to La Jolla Cove.
(Paula Selby)

Burleigh said the Swim Club, which has been around since the late 1970s, has sponsored versions of the Pier to Cove Swim for more than 25 years, opening it to the public and obtaining city of San Diego permits about 15 years ago, when he began organizing it.

The club has about 300 active members, Burleigh said. Some meet for “dawn patrol” swims before work; others meet around 9:30 a.m. or 3 p.m., he said.

Some members swim alone, some wear wetsuits and fins and some don’t.

“It’s really just a social club for people who enjoy swimming in the ocean,” Burleigh said.

The club sponsors other events and programs like the “Big Chill,” during which members track their mileage during the offseason (November to April). Burleigh said 100 people logged about 7,000 miles during the most recent program.

Though the club doesn’t push long-distance swimming, Burleigh said several members have swum the English Channel, Catalina Channel and others.

The Pier to Cove Swim didn’t happen the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s “just a happy event,” Burleigh said. “Only a few people care about winning or competing. Most people just do it and they enjoy it.”

For more information or to register for the swim, visit